Hundreds of people from the South Orange and Maplewood community came together Tuesday night to remember the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre — and to call for tolerance and demand action against violence — with a vigil at the South Orange Train Station.
South Orange Village President Sheena Collum and Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca jointly organized the vigil. Local clergy members, including Reverend Sandye Wilson, The Episcopal Church of Saint Andrew and Holy Communion; Reverend Brad Motta, Morrow Church, Maplewood; Rabbi Dan Cohen, Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, South Orange and Ashraf Latif, Chairman and President of the National Islamic Association and Community Center in Newark — spoke of defeating hate with love, tolerance, and understanding.
“Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,” said one clergy. “…we know that love will overcome hate.”
Seton Hall University students read the list of the 49 victims who were killed. The crowd sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth” and “We Shall Overcome.”
Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca said, “We must send the message that we stand with our brothers and sisters in Orlando…our LGBT brothers and sisters are under attack, whether it’s at the end of a rifle or the end of a legislative effort to deny them their rights…”
Local resident and North Jersey Pride member Jan Kaminsky said the attack was the worst on LGBT people since the Holocaust. “We are…enraged by a culture of radical American homophobia…promoted by those… who seek to enflame the rhetoric with lies, hate speech and bullying.”
She decried “the deadly fear that inspires legislation that restricts access to bathrooms for transgender and gender fluid people and fails to protect the 52% of LGBTQ Americans whose employment can be terminated just because of who they are.”
“Hatred takes one more than one individual, more than one bigot, even more than one incendiary politician,” said Kaminsky. “It takes all of us allowing that division and hatred to separate us and one another from our common humanity. Let us all stand up today and say we will not be divided against one another, we will not allow the homophobic actions of one person to dictate where we work, where we go to school, where we play.”
She continued, “We will not allow the very fabric of out nation to be torn apart by hate….Together we must seize this moment to rise up…for all Americans and to say ‘No more!'”
Photos by Joy Yagid and Marilyn Joyce Lehren. Click on images to enlarge: